Everything You Need to Know About Soot Damage and Restoration

Soot may not be as noticeable or devastating as water damage, but this fine black substance is still a real problem in many homes. It can gradually accumulate in corners until it causes discoloration, or it can suddenly appear after a fire. If you have soot in your home, you will need to identify the cause and figure out how to remove the soot. Here are some important details about dealing with soot. 

What Is Soot and Why Is It a Problem?

Soot is a mixture of very fine black particles created by the product of incomplete combustion. It is primarily made up of carbon, but it can also contain trace amounts of metals, dust, and chemicals. Soot is different from charcoal and other byproducts of combustion because it is so fine. These tiny particles may be under 2.5 micrometers in diameter which is smaller than dust, mold, and dirt particles. 

The small size of soot is what makes it so dangerous for humans and pets. It can easily be breathed deep into the small passageways of the lungs. Repeated exposure to soot is linked to respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and cancer. Because of these problems, soot is more than just an unsightly nuisance. It is a danger that cannot be left in the home. 

How Does Soot Damage Occur?

In the home, the most dramatic incidents of soot are from fire damage. All of the wood, paper, clothing, and other organic and synthetic matter that burns during a house fire can turn into soot, and it may end up settled on all the surfaces throughout a house even if a fire only occurred in one room. 

Though this is typically the most devastating cause of soot damage, even houses that have not been affected by a fire can end up with a soot problem. Soot occurs whenever anything containing hydrocarbons is burnt, so it can be caused by these issues: 

  • Poorly ventilated fireplaces
  • Constant candle usage
  • Defective home furnaces
  • Smoking tobacco or other plant matter indoors
  • Using high temperatures while cooking
  • Proximity to industrial facilities that use combustion-based power sources
  • Exposure to a vehicle's exhaust emissions

What Are the Types of Soot Damage?

Soot composition can vary quite a bit depending on the underlying causes. All types of soot cause at least some darkening, and in severe cases, any type of soot can look completely black. Though most soot looks similar, some types of soot can be harder to clean or more likely to cause intense odors. 

Dry Soot 
Dry soot is caused by very hot fires burning natural ingredients swiftly. It has a dry, dusty texture and almost no smell. Dry soot is often easier to manage than mold or storm damage. In many cases, removing it is as simple as using a vacuum with a HEPA filter on all surfaces. 

Wet Soot 
If a fire smolders for a while on low heat and burns high moisture items, wet soot may be created. This is essentially dry soot that has mingled with steam to create a sort of soggy, sooty mess. Cleaning up wet soot requires a combination of fire damage and water damage strategies. 

Oily Soot 
When plastics, rubbers, and other products containing oil are burned, soot can turn into a sticky, greasy substance. If you try to wipe it up, it will just smear instead of going away.  Also, because it contains oil, it will be resistant to water-based cleaning products. Unlike dry soot, oily soot will cling to any surface, even vertical areas. 

Protein Soot 
Protein-based soot is a particular type of greasy soot that tends to occur as the buildup in kitchens or the product of a kitchen fire. It involves overcooked proteins that turn to soot, and it has a very pungent odor. This type of soot is quite hard to get rid of, and the odor may linger if it is not cleaned up properly. 

What Should You Do About Soot Damage?

When dealing with soot damage, you have a few different options available. 

Dry Clean the Soot 
If you primarily have dry soot in your home, you can use dry cleaning methods to pick up most of the soot. These methods are essentially the same methods you would use for removing dust. A dry cloth can remove soot from tables and furniture, while a vacuum can pick it up off of carpets, upholstery, and flooring. Dry-cleaning will ensure that powdery soot does not smear into a blackened grime. 

This method is a little tedious, so it is normally only recommended for smaller areas of soot. It can be helpful for doing a basic clean up and ensuring the soot does not spread before you can get more help. Keep in mind that if you try a dry-cleaning method and the soot begins to smear, you may need to try a wet cleaning method. 

Wet Clean the Soot 
A wet cleaning method can be effective if you have wet or oily soot. To use this method, combine soap with water to lightly scrub an area with soot. Try testing it in a small area to ensure that it can actually pick up soot without making the mess worse or damage the underlying surface. 

Wet cleaning soot does have some benefits because it can pick up soot that is mixed in with oil or moisture. However, it is quite time-consuming and requires a lot of effort. Another downside of wet cleaning soot methods is that they are only feasible on tile or other waterproof surfaces. Using water to clean drywall, wood, or electronics is not advisable. 

Call In the Professionals 

Though DIY techniques might work for smaller areas of soot, it is not always an option. Significant soot damage to the home can be overwhelming to clean on your own. You may also find that you do not have the right cleaning solutions for removing soot from certain types of surfaces without damaging them. In these sorts of situations, it is probably a good idea to get help from a trusted restoration professional. 
Most companies that clean up fire damage and mold or storm damage also offer professional soot cleaning options. A professional service can help to get rid of any lingering odors and ensure that there are not tiny particles of soot stuck behind that could cause breathing issues. Restoration professionals have the specialized equipment required to thoroughly remove soot from the home. 

Whether you are recovering from a huge house fire or just want to get rid of accumulated soot darkening your walls and ceilings, Paul Davis Restoration can help. Our home restoration and recovery experts have the experience and tools needed to deal with this tricky substance and make your home a soot-free environment.

How to Save Your Hardwood Flooring After it has been Flooded

It’s no surprise that many property owners are terrified of water damage. Moisture can harm your subfloor and wood flooring, creating soft spots that potentially impair the building’s structure. Even minor water damage can create mold and mildew problems. If your hardwood floors have been involved in a leak or flood, you can take these steps to save them.

Move Quickly

There’s no point in fixing your floors if the moisture continues to mar them. Make sure that you identify and repair the source of moisture as you take steps to save your wood flooring.

The longer you wait to attend to your floors, the worse the damage will become. Wood floors are porous. As they absorb moisture, their fibers swell. This warps the wood and could cause permanent damage.

If you notice flooding or a puddle, dry out the floor as soon as possible. Use an absorbent cloth to remove as much moisture as possible. Then, use a vacuum that is designed to suck up water. Remove as much moisture as possible using the device.

Finally, scrub with a brush and disinfectant to remove dirt. Dirt can encourage mildew growth. Removing it can prevent mold from growing in the future. Finish up with a final vacuuming session.

Repair Options Depend On The Type Of Flooring

Various types of wood can handle different repair methods. Solid hardwood is the most resilient. It is thicker than engineered flooring and can be sanded down to remedy issues with unevenness. Replacing solid hardwood planks is usually easier than swapping out engineered wood slats.

Factory-finished flooring can also be harder to match if you don’t have extra boards lying around. Floors that were finished after laying them in the home may be easier to sand and re-finish for a uniform look.

Refinishing Or Replacing Wood Planks

Strips that have suffered from water damage may be curved. To fix this cupping, you can sand them down. Use a drum or orbital sander to get the boards as flat as possible. This Old House explains how to sand and refinish hardwood floors.

Solid hardwood can withstand losing about 1/4 inch of height. Planks with severe damage may not get completely flat.

Floorboards that have lifted might be able to be nailed down again. If not, you’ll have to replace them. Replacement pieces should match the original wood species. They also need to have a similar grain and texture to blend in well.

For the most seamless finish, consider sanding and refinishing your entire floor. It’s hard to refinish specific spots without obvious lap marks. Even if you’re using the same wood and finish, the old flooring has probably changed in color due to sun damage and regular wear and tear.

A professional restoration specialist can make your floors look like new after they have succumbed to water damage. At Paul Davis, water damage restoration is one of our core specialties. Contact us to find out how we can identify the degree of damage, repair the affected areas and ensure that your room is completely dry.

How to Winter-Proof Your Home Against Water Damage

Seven Ways to Keep Your Property Safe

With winter storms on the horizon, many homeowners are getting furnace tuneups and purchasing emergency power generators. However, water damage from melting snow and leaky or burst pipes can be just as bad as furnace breakdowns and power outages. Here are seven ways to prevent winter water damage in your Fort Wayne, Indiana, home:

1. Invest in Sewer Backup Insurance

Excessive water from melting snow can overtax a sewer system to the point where it backs up into your home. Raw sewage can destroy your home and everything in it. Sewer backup damage isn’t covered under most homeowners’ policies, but it can be purchased as an additional product.

2. Locate Your Water Shutoff Valves

If your pipes freeze or burst, being able to turn off the water quickly can prevent excessive water damage. You can also install a pressure release valve to reduce pressure caused by frozen pipes and keep them from bursting.

3. Have Your Pipes Checked for Leaks

Most plumbing companies offer plumbing inspections and leak detection services. Locating and sealing cracks and leaks in pipes can prevent thousands of dollars worth of damage. Even a small leak could allow up to 250 gallons of water to flood your home in just one day.

4. Insulate Pipes

Keep pipes warm in freezing weather with a plug-in heating cable or with extra insulation. Pipes in attics, basements, behind cabinets and in crawl spaces are most likely to freeze or burst. Drip your faucets when the temps are below freezing and leave cabinets open to keep the pipes behind them warm.

5. Clean Rain Gutters

Rain gutter debris prevent melting snow and ice from draining off the roof. Dirty gutters also cause ice dams to form because water melting on the roof has nowhere to drain. Instead of draining, it forms a dam around the edges of the roof that traps the remaining water on the roof. Trapped behind ice dams, this water can seep into your home and cause leaks in walls and ceilings, damage your insulation and cause mold to grow. 6. Remove Snow From the Roof

6. Remove Snow From the Roof

Snow buildup on the roof can also cause ice dams, so it should be removed promptly. You can purchase an implement called a roof rake or use a push broom to remove the snow. Ice dams form when heat from your home melts the snow in the center of the roof and it reforms into ice along the roof’s perimeter. To prevent this, keep your attic no more than 10 degrees warmer than the temperature outside, and seal any holes in the attic to keep warm air from leaking out.

7. Inspect Your Home’s Exterior

If your Fort Wayne, Indiana, home has sustained water damage, the pros at Paul Davis Restoration offer 24/7 emergency water damage restoration service. The faster the problem is treated, the less damage it will cause.

Are You Ready for the Next Storm?

A severe storm or a fire can make you feel helpless, robbing you of your ability to protect your home and your family. Such destructive forces can cause significant damage, both inside and outside your home. Severe weather cost Americans billions in 2016, according to the National Weather Service, and if recent storms are any indication, costly damage is on the rise. However, if you are proactive in taking the following steps to get ready for the next storm, you can contain the damage and lower the risks to your family.

1. Purchase a generator

Before you shop for a generator, get a clear idea of how much power you will need to keep essentials like your lights and HVAC system up and running. You can find examples of power consumption for various home appliances online. Make sure you have enough fuel to weather an extended power outage, but store it in a place where it won’t become a fire hazard. Most importantly, select a dedicated spot for your generator in an outbuilding or garage where carbon monoxide emissions cannot endanger your family.

2. Regularly maintain the exterior of your home

Get into the habit of regular exterior maintenance to eliminate any areas ripe for storm damage. For example, check your roof and rain gutters periodically, securing any loose shingles and tightening any brackets as necessary so that everything is battened down.

3. Declutter your space

Keep your yard, porch and deck free of clutter that could fuel a fire or break a window in a windstorm. If you see any tree limbs that are getting dangerously close to your house, trim them back. Prior to storm season, store your patio furniture safely in the garage, and make sure you don’t leave ladders, garden tools or other unsecured items scattered around.

4. Prepare supplies

If the storm causes flooding, your water supply may become contaminated, so it is a good idea to have containers of fresh water available at all times. You can also stock up on dry and canned foods in case stores are forced to close during a storm. Other items to have on hand include flashlights with fresh batteries and a well-stocked first aid kit.

5. Make an evacuation plan

Don’t be caught off guard by the next big storm. Create an evacuation plan for getting your family quickly and safely out of danger. The plan should include a pre-arranged destination, a list of necessities you need to bring along and a breakdown of tasks each person is responsible for to help make your evacuation orderly and efficient.

6. Recovery

Despite your best efforts, you can never completely shield your home from the damages caused by weather, fire, smoke or mold. We can help you get your home back in shape with professional recovery, reconstruction and restoration services. Contact Paul Davis of Northeast Indiana today.